Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed

On the heels of the extraordinary documentary about cancer doctor Dr. Stanislow Burzynski, who’s been fighting the U.S. government  in court for 20 years to treat his patients with an effective cancer therapy, comes another equally powerful HBO documentary called Hot Coffee.  Documentary filmmaker Susan Saladoff paints a grim picture of the U.S. government, corporate America and the press stifling citizens from seeking justice through the courts. 

In the film, oilfield mega-corporation Halliburton prevents a woman from taking her abusers to court, even though she’s been brutally gang-raped and disfigured by Halliburton employees.  In another segment, malpractice caps--so called tort reform--prevent parents from collecting what the jury has awarded them to care for their son, born severely retarded and physically handicapped due to physician error.  And political mastermind Karl Rove, adviser to President George W. Bush, buys big-business judges and destroys judges intent on safeguarding the rights of ordinary citizens.

Bush himself makes a few appearances in the film, putting his foot in his mouth repeatedly. “In my line of work you have to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kinda catapult the propaganda,” he explains.

The title Hot Coffee refers to a McDonald’s case brought by a 79-year-old woman, Stella Liebeck, who was burned by the restaurant’s coffee.  Excoriated by the media and big business as a money-hungry opportunist in search of "jackpot justice," she was, in reality, a hardworking recent retiree who sustained massive third-degree burns that required extensive skin grafts and surgeries.  All she wanted from McDonald’s was for the company to pay for what Medicare didn’t cover.  When McDonald’s refused, they went to court. 

McDonald’s had incurred more than 700 complaints and injuries that its scalding coffee—held at 180 degrees—was too hot, but never did anything about it until Liebeck sued and won.  Still, she remained the butt of jokes.  And given the severity of her injuries, it's not surprising that she never fully regained her strength and has since died.

At least the coffee’s 10 degrees cooler.

What does all this have to do with ME/CFS?  Nothing and everything.  It's the same story of desperate and deserving people being marginalized and abused by the government, big business and the press.  Different insults; same result.

Take a look at the trailer:

Monday, June 27, 2011


Last week, freelance writer Nigel Hawkes penned a piece for the British Medical Journal called "Dangers of research into chronic fatigue syndrome." In the article, Hawkes argues that "threats to researchers" from the ME/CFS community are "stifling" the science.  In particular, he mocks patients who've accused British psychiatrist Simon Wessely of throwing a young boy into a swimming pool to check if his paralysis was genuine.  

I wrote a letter to Hawkes to set the record straight, as I interviewed the parents of that boy last summer for one of the first articles I wrote for this blog, "Hard Cell."  I waited a few days for a response from Hawkes, but he's not replied, so it's time to post the letter:  
Dear Mr. Hawkes,

I’m an investigative reporter in the States. Last summer, I interviewed the parents of Ean Proctor for an article I was writing. Nearly 25 years ago, when he was 12, Ean, who was wheelchair-bound with a severe case of ME, was put facedown in a swimming pool without water wings.  He sank underwater and had to be rescued.  He endured other Dickensian tactics while he was sectioned.  For instance, the doctors and nurses, according to Mrs. Proctor, believed Ean was faking his illness and forced him to feed himself, which took hours because his arms were so weak.  He sat in soiled clothing because the nurses wouldn’t take him to the bathroom.

Although Dr. Simon Wessely didn’t personally do any of this to Ean, he did sign papers that led to Ean being separated from his parents where he was abused—there is no other word for it than abuse—for five months before his parents finally succeeded in getting him out.

I wrote a piece on his ordeal called “Hard Cell” for my blog, CFS Central.  In it, I referenced the documents Wessely wrote about Ean back then.  You can read three of them in full.  In addition, I interviewed Dr. Wessely, who did not deny the incident.  Moreover, there is a link to a youtube video where Ean is interviewed about his sectioning.

I’ve interviewed many other ME patients who’ve been subjected to similar abuses at the hands of British doctors and live in fear that they’ll be sectioned again. After 30 years of abuse at the hands of many in the British health system, patients have rightfully had enough. I believe that you’ll better understand what patients are really dealing with from Dr. Wessely and others like him if you get all the facts.

I welcome a dialog with you toward more accurate reporting on this issue.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Second Email Exchange Between 
Dusty Miller and CFS Central

CFS Central:  You wrote: "Regarding the data in Lombardi et al., I was initially convinced by their extensive analysis, in particular, their ability to grow virus from patient materials. Indeed, we entered the CFS/XMRV field largely on the basis of these data. However, published and unpublished data now indicate that all of these methods were flawed.”
As far as I'm aware, no published or unpublished data indicates that the methods of Lombardi et al. were flawed. To what studies are you referring? 

Dr. Dusty Miller:  In the recent Science Express paper by Knox, ..., and Levy, the authors used three techniques to detect XMRV and related retroviruses in humans with CFS, and found none.  These techniques included nested PCR, an assay for infectious virus, and assays for neutralizing antibodies and other inhibitory factors in blood.  Importantly, many of the CFS subjects they studied came from Dr. Peterson's practice in Incline Village, and represent some of the same patients that Lombardi et al. studied.  Therefore, this is a close replication of the Lombardi et al. study.  The Knox study is in addition to many other negative studies cited in this paper (refs. 7-12).  

Lastly, the XMRV viral sequences deposited by Lombardi et al. in GenBank all are very closely related the VP62 XMRV sequence (see the supplemental material in Knox et al.), and the VP62 plasmid from Robert Silverman was apparently present in the labs of Lombardi et al., strongly indicating contamination of the Lombardi et al. PCR assays by VP62 plasmid DNA.  Putting all of this together leads me to conclude that the methods of Lombardi et al. must have been flawed.

CFS Central:  You also wrote: "Regarding the constant accusation that no one has carefully replicated Lombardi's methods, this is not true as far as most scientists are concerned. Initial reports attempting to replicate the study did have flaws, but many later studies are convincing.”

The problem with these later studies as I see it is that not one of the so-called replication studies was a bona fide replication. The patient cohorts and/or methods used were not identical. I learned in 9th grade science that being identical in cohort and methods are necessary for a true replication—otherwise you’re introducing variables that may account for the different findings. In your view, could the different methods/cohorts account for the differences in the findings? Why or why not?
Miller:  Please see my response above.  It is difficult to perform an exact replication study, which would involve going to the Mikovits lab and watching whoever did the previous study repeat it with the same patient samples.  Besides which, you may have also learned in 9th grade science that scientific results must be generalizable, that is, competent scientists must be able to repeat the experiments under somewhat different conditions and obtain similar results.  If the claimed result can only be obtained by performing the experiment in one spot in the Mikovits lab, perhaps while singing a particular song, then the results are not generalizable and should be looked on with suspicion. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Dr. Dusty Miller gave this statement to CFS Central about his XMRV study:

"Our paper is in press in the Journal of Virology, and should be available online through the Journal website on Wednesday this week.  We performed our study independently of the Paprotka et al. (including Coffin) study recently published in Science, but the results do overlap.  Essentially, we found an endogenous retrovirus (mERV-XL) in NIH/3T3 cells, a commonly used mouse cell line, that is virtually identical to what Paprotka et al. are calling PreXMRV-2.  You can find both sequences on the NCBI website.  One of the points we make is that all of the PCR primers used to detect the XMRV gag region can amplify a sequence identical to XMRV from NIH/3T3 cells, which are present in many labs.

"Unfortunately, we did not find an intact copy or the right half of XMRV in any of the mouse cell lines or tissue that we analyzed, but clearly we did not look hard enough.  Paprotka et al. firmly established the origin of XMRV from nude mice.  We were pursuing the same hypothesis, but could not get early samples of the cell lines and tissues from which the XMRV-carrying 22Rv1 cells were derived."